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Intergenerational living is the future – where are the opportunities?

We recently listed to Housing Lin’s second HAPPIHour session on Intergenerational Living. This extended session featured presentations by architects from Matter Architecture and PRP as well as AXA, Clarion Group, Central Bedfordshire Council, Lovell Later Living and United for all ages
Roland Karthaus from Matter Architecture began, and noted that relationships in intergenerational living cannot be forced. The premise of the design is about tackling loneliness and isolation. Loneliness can be as harmful to health as smoking and can make people more likely to develop dementia.
He went on to say that intergenerational living has to be firmly embedded in its neighbourhood via some kind of social space. Mono-functional high streets aren't able to adapt to change as well as high streets of the past could, so we need to rethink what a high street does.
Matter Architecture has been working on a project in a high street in Walthomstow, East London. Part of their work is identifying opportunities in sites behind the high street to support what is happening in the high street. He said that community spaces combined with intergenerational housing can bring life back to high streets.
Paula Broadbent from Lovell Later Living began by saying that it is important to consider and discuss what people want as they age. As many people live into their 90s, they cannot be expected to have the same aspirations as someone in their 30s. We must create opportunities to create communities within communities.
She said that we must think about the challenges we face as we age, and ask ourselves how much we challenge the status quo to get better results. We also need to understand the environments in which people live to get the support they require. The build form is one thing, accessibility which works for an older person will also work for someone with a pushchair or wheelchair. Designers must think about place as an opportunity for individuals to work together for the good of the community.
In answer to a question about the focus on 'High Streets', Roland Karthaus said that 'High Street' is being used as shorthand for town centres, and that intergenerational living requires community.
Paula Broadbent added that there are opportunities to placeshape in rural and town centre areas. Designers must consider all opportunities, not just new build – the same principles can be applied to what is already available.
Tim Hoyle from Central Bedfordshire Council shared a diagram suggesting that over 50% of older people are considering downsizing. But many of these are owner/occupiers, and will only move for the right option. He said that Central Bedfordshire Council were looking at a multigenerational model to increase inclusivity, and to better reflect the changing face of our communities.
He shared details of an intergenerational scheme in Flitwick, which includes a care home, extra-care homes, a short break unit for disabled people, downsizer properties and shared access for other generations.  
Manisha Patel and Jenny Buterchi from PRP and Paul Quinn from Clarion Housing Group then spoke.
Maisha Patel began by saying that housing means different things to different people - young people want to be close to friends, and affordability is key; for families the priorities are to be close to family and work; whilst older people may want to be close to family, but do they want to be somewhere quiet?
She asked if we need to look at housing typology - at the Olympic Park, PRP had the opportunity to experiment with this and how it could work for intergenerational living, with each section having their own front doors. She noted that during the pandemic PRP started thinking about new typologies for urban living, and designed intergenerational flats. A recent typology has also considered homeworking, as the trend towards this means that people can work for longer, and so PRP have designed a typology which uses the hallway for this purpose. The future is going to be interesting, she said – post-pandemic are we going to just think about master planning, or intergenerational typologies?
Jenny Buterchi of PRP continued the presentation, saying that later living property has become very diverse. She used the example of Oakfield in Swindon, which has 3 specific typologies: age in place cottages, walk-up apartments, and a central hub.
The walk-up apartments have intergenerational living on different floors, and shared gardens; whilst the age in place cottages have seating built into them, so that people can watch the world go by and speak to their neighbours. They ended by stating that developers can design to suit all ages, but placemaking is key.
Paul Quinn from Clarion Housing Group then spoke. Beginning with some demographic statistics, he said that during the period 2012-2032 the number of people aged 65-84 will rise 39%, and that by 2032 more than 40% will be single households.
A study has found that Britain is one of the most age-segregated societies, where we build housing to suit specific demographics. We need to design properties that fit people at different stages in their lives, and so Clarion Housing Group is developing a patternbook-based approach of flexible homes, the use of which can change over time.
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